My travelling companion was Miss Twelve - long, thin and beautiful. She is my one and only baby and our plan was to spend a girls’ night in Wellington. There were two possible scenarios. It could either go really well or really badly. Hanging out with a twelve year-old is like hanging out with Jekyll or Hyde, and you don’t know which one it will be.
The day was so fine. Again. The best summer on record and every day, people like us down the bottom of the North Island would wake up and go: What the hell? Another good day? It just can’t be. It’s so wonderful. It’s like we live in another place. A place where the weather isn’t shit.
We met a three year-old called Stan on the train. He was very nice. He tried to give me his Grandma’s gold bangle. I was all for it but unfortunately Stan’s Granddad wouldn’t let him give it away. Stan could count to ten and he was well keen on the tunnels. Eight of them in total.
“I hate public transport,” Miss Twelve declared. “There are too many people.” I was inclined to agree. Much to my bemusement, Miss Twelve seems to have taken after me in her loathing for public transport. The man in front of us on the train did smell pretty bad and a guy that got on at Porirua was obviously conducting a drug deal on his phone. But other than that the train ride was actually rather nice. The sea glittered and we got a good look at Kapiti Island. New Zealand is so pretty. We live in paradise.
But then. Wait for it. Wait for it. But then... we saw Scarlett Johannson! No word of a lie. She was walking her baby in a pram, the wind rustling the hair under her cap, wearing sunglasses and she had three bodyguards surrounding her in a triangular formation. I did not care that it was windy anymore. I had seen Scarlett Johannson in real life. Scarlett Johannson! An A-list celebrity who happens to be in my favourite movie of all time (‘Lost in Translation’, directed by Sofia Coppola). Sigh. Life is wonderful. Miss Twelve was happy as well because Scarlett Johannson is also in ‘The Avengers’. Or something.
Along the waterfront there is poetry hidden on the Writers Walk which is a typographical sculpture trail dedicated to Wellington. Miss Twelve didn’t believe that there was poetry hidden everywhere but once she saw one she got into the hunting game. There are twenty-three to find.
A couple of my favs:
“I live at the edge of the Universe like everybody else.” - Bill Manhire
“I want to live among people who believe in truth and freedom...I want to discuss ideas... I want books…” - Jack Lasenby
“Their heads bent, their
legs just touching, they
stride like one eager
person through the town,
down the asphalt zigzag
where the fennel grows
wild ... the wind is so
strong that they have
to fight their way
through it, rocking like
two old drunkards.” - Katherine Mansfield
“Good idea,” I said. “Ours is a true love.”
“What would happen if you put a padlock there with your husband and then you split up?”
“I dunno, maybe you would go back and smash it open?”
“People probably put them there with their high school boyfriends and they definitely all split up.”
I’d booked us in on wotif.com for a night at the Museum Art Hotel. It’s just past Te Papa and very central. Expensive, but we were only staying one night so what the hell? The lobby (think: chandeliers, masculine furniture, glass chessboards) features the most impressive art and you can get a sheet of paper from reception to do a tour of all the artwork. Some highlights were Ella by Peter Stitchbury, Dick Frizzell by Stephen Martyn Welch, Colleen by Liz Maw and The Attack of the 60ft Vermmer Inspired Women by Simon Mee.
We followed moody dark hallways with thick patterned carpet only to open the door of our suite to the light of a harbour view. Across the road there would be a fresh produce market the following morning.
Around the corner underneath the hotel was a shop I desperately wanted to visit called Brown & Co. It’s got taxidermied animals in it. I am extremely interested in taxidermy because when my giant, fat, ginger cat Dennis dies I am going to get him taxidermied. Brown & Co was not a disappointment (to me; Miss Twelve hated it and begged to leave). There were taxidermied bats, taxidermied baby chickens, taxidermied magpies - One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy… - and even a taxidermied peacock. So beautiful. If I had a spare couple of grand I definitely would have bought it. Although I don’t think Miss Twelve would have walked with me if I’d had to carry it home. “I want to get my cat taxidermied,” I told the lady behind the counter. “Is that how you say it? Taxidermied.”
“I think it’s taxidermised,” she said.
There are many signs that say strictly no photography. But I couldn’t help myself. As soon as the lady went out the back I started taking pictures. Miss Twelve was very angry.
“Mum,” she hissed. “It says No Photos.”
“Mum. Stop taking photos! Mum! Stop it.” She bundled me out the door before I could take any more. “You are so embarrassing!”
“You are. It said no pictures.”
“What are they going to do. Arrest me?”
“Mum. You just need to have more self control.”
“Sorry.” I was humbled. I took one more photo of the gnomes in the window giving the fingers.
“I’m coming. I’m coming. Should we go get dinner?” The way to Miss Twelve’s heart is through her stomach.
“Peace.” Miss Twelve replied without hesitation and he stumbled away again.
“That man is on drugs,” I told her. “Drugs are very, very bad and fry your brains. Never take them.”
She nodded. “Peace in the City.”
“Peace in the City,” I agreed.
We laughed and finished our pizza.
Japan Mart is a shop that sells Japanese stuff. Cute storage items, stationery galore, pretty plates, beauty products, but most importantly padlocks. It took a while to decide. Did we want a blue one? A white one? A big one? We settled on two tiny padlocks, dainty and gold with three keys for each padlock. The word STATES was engraved on both. “I guess STATES will have to represent us.”
Miss Twelve seemed happy with that.
It was getting colder and we were still in our summery clothes from earlier. “Should we go back to the hotel and have a spa?” I asked.
But on the way home down Cuba Street we discovered one more shop we had to go into called ‘Wellington Apothecary’ where we found clay face-masks of the most beautiful pastel hues.
We had a spa, put on our robes, slathered our face in clay, hopped into the king-sized bed, ordered room service french fries (we just needed a little something-something) and watched TV. We were fast asleep by 8.30pm.
The next morning was sunny. Holy sweet Jesus, when will the good weather end? We had two goals:
- Find pancakes
- Put our lovelocks on the bridge.
The pancakes were provided by Crepes A GoGo down Manners Street. They were better than good. We ate them in total silence. Miss Twelve wished she had ordered two more. Next stop was the waterfront. Our little padlocks hung side by side with the sea behind them. We threw our tiny keys into the harbour and made our wishes as the wind picked up our hair and blew it around. Lily hugged me. “I love you Mum. I’ve had the best time.”
In Wellington, her long hair flies
Is she Jekyll or Hyde?